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Using IT to stop people playing the system

In difficult cases it can sometimes be hard to prove that a party who is playing the system or is otherwise being awkward has received paperwork.


In an effort to clarify the best approach in the case of Maugham v Willmot 2016 the High Court has given guidance on service by email.


The Husband was a pilot who spent much of his time out of the country so it was sometimes difficult to serve papers upon him. In 2013 the court had made a maintenance order and ruled that he could be served with papers by email. Over the next two years he did not fully comply with the order so arrears built up and often used email to make his points. In 2015 he tried to argue that the 2013 order was void because of a technical point that even if he was out of the jurisdiction it was possible to use other methods of service rather than email and those methods should therefore have been used.


Firstly the court concluded that the 2013 order was binding until it was set aside or varied. The Husband had made various applications in relation to the order and had delayed challenging it on the basis that it was void so he could not suddenly change tack. He had also used email when contacting that court and the general course of his conduct was such that he had lost the right to argue about the validity of the 2013 order when it had been in place for so long. He could not have his cake and his penny.


The court made other comments about email and observed that perhaps some of the rules about service have become outdated. An individual can check email from anywhere in the world so in a digital age the old concepts of "jurisdiction" and "whereabouts" are not what they were. An individual in Australia can be served via an email on a server in the UK. There is no longer a requirement for the recipient to be in a particular place. The implication is that with current levels of international movement and developments in IT the old rules about service out of the jurisdiction may need to be revised.

Should you wish to discuss any aspect of family law, including divorce proceedings, please do not hesitate to contact Joanna Gardner - or Ian Stirzaker -


Added: 20 Jun 2016 11:18

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